It’s been a fun last couple of weeks, huh? The Yankees have plucked the second and third best free agents off the market, the top 2 players available at premium up-the-middle positions, and they’ve done in relatively sneaky fashion. While everybody else was assuming their primary focus was on Robinson Cano and Carlos Beltran, they pushed harder than many of us realized to get Brian McCann and then called an audible for Jacoby Ellsbury. McCann will finally be formally introduced this afternoon at a 2 PM press conference, and once he passes his physical Ellsbury won’t be far behind.
After the slow, stagnant, predictable, and painful offseason of last year, this year’s has already been full of fireworks and we aren’t even to the Winter Meetings yet. With wheels still turning on the Cano front and the signing of Ellsbury reportedly not stopping the Yanks from pursuing Shin-Soo Choo, I guess the most important question right now is who’s next?
Whoever it is, at this point it’s safe to assume the plan to get under the luxury tax threshold this season is going away. Mathematically it could still be done and still be done with room to spare if A-Rod’s suspension is upheld. But it would come at the expense of filling more than 1 of the remaining roster holes with better players and there’s been nothing to indicate the Yankees have any interest in taking that route. You don’t plunk down $238 million to address a few holes and then call it a day, not when the top free agent on the market who also happens to be your best recent homegrown player is still unsigned and not when your current 3-5 starters have a combined 436.2 career IP.
Even if Cano re-signed right now for the Yankees’ original $161 million offer, that $23 mil AAV hit would sap up over half of the remaining 189 budget. They’d have about $14 mil and change left, another 3 of which will get chopped off when Kelly Johnson passes his physical. The offer they’ve already made to Hiroki Kuroda is for at least $15 million and probably a little more to give him a raise from last season’s deal and if Hirok takes it that’s curtains for the budget. If he doesn’t, that money will be spent elsewhere to fortify the starting rotation and the Yankees are still very likely to get involved in the Masahiro Tanaka posting. Per the newest posting rules proposal, that could end up costing the Yankees more in salary than they originally planned. So anyway you look at it, the $189 mil budget doesn’t appear to have a very long lifespan with all the things the Yanks still have in play.
Now things could go differently. Cano could decide to take the money and run elsewhere, if another team ever does step forward to make him an offer. Kuroda could decide he’d rather go back to Japan and decline the 1-year offer from New York. The Yankees could decide the change in posting rules and added salary commitment to sign Tanaka isn’t worth the risk and they could redistribute their remaining money across a group of cheaper players to fill out the roster and stay under the threshold.
Given what we’ve already seen them do with McCann and Ellsbury, however, that doesn’t seem very likely. In fact it would be more shocking if all those things happened than it was when the McCann and Ellsbury stories first broke. The Yankees are pot committed to going all the way with this reload plan this offseason and if the payroll goal has to fall by the wayside for that reload to be completed, so be it. The Yankees said they were committed to building a championship-caliber team first and right now they’re going about it the best way they know how. If they continue to spend big to fill out the roster and the payroll creeps north of 189, I know I won’t be upset about it and I’m sure there are countless other Yankee fans out there who will feel the same.